Jewish World Review April 1, 2003 / 28 Adar II, 5763
War's happy troubadours
http://www.jewishworldreview.com | Never in the history of warfare have so many derived so much enjoyment from so few.
The few are the American, British and Australian troops deployed in Iraq. Few, of course, is a relative concept. The assembled allied force is five times bigger than a capacity crowd at Yankee Stadium. But it is not so big that it includes -- or even threatens to include -- citizens who don't want to be there. The guy who invented the all-volunteer army ought to get a Congressional Medal of Honor.
Same for the genius who thought up journalistic embedding. He should get an Emmy, too. Vietnam was supposed to be the first TV war, but Vietnam never got these ratings --- or such rave reviews from reporters.
Reporters are living rough, but most seem to be having the time of their lives. Some are positively gung-ho (notice how they refer to the units they are covering as "we"). CNN's Walt Rodgers, stationed with the 7th Cavalry, appears to be inhabited by the ghost of George Armstrong Custer.
Close access ensures that embedded reporters provide a lot of bang-bang infotainment, but very little actual information. This is by Pentagon design. Nobody knows less about the unfolding of a war than soldiers in the field.
The big picture is being supplied by a corps of ex-generals, retired statesmen and think-tank experts, all of whom are visibly delighted to be busy. They supply jargon-infested commentary and draw wiggly lines and arrows. They also show off by comparing the present conflict in Iraq with Gen. George Patton's dash across Europe, Gen. William Sherman's march to the sea, Hannibal's crossing the Alps, the Battle of Bull Run and the siege of Stalingrad. Most of this is wholly irrelevant, but military history buffs are in heaven.
So are peace protesters, who come in two flavors - Vietnam-era activists tingling with political Viagra, and actual young people holding what appears to be a giant '60s-style block party. These kids don't know much, but they know that war is not the answer. The answer is dressing up in a costume, getting arrested for an hour and maybe meeting somebody cool.
The war is fun for Europeans, too. It has made a hero of corrupt and mediocre French President Jacques Chirac, enabled the Germans to engage in a little moral role reversal and reestablished Russian President Vladimir Putin - evidently disconcerted by President Bush's famous glance into his soul - as a proper Russian enigma. Even Spain is having fun, improbably back on the world stage as a great power for the first time in a century.
Some Democrats suspect Bush of including the Spaniards in his tripartite Azores summit to woo Hispanic voters. The Democrats aren't among those enjoying this war, and they are full of odd conspiracy theories about why a great majority of the public supports it.
Partly, this is a matter of reflexive wartime patriotism. But it also appears that most Americans understand both the logic and necessity of taking down Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. In the end, Bush made his case.
That could change if the war goes bad, but it won't. Saddam's fedayeen are not the Viet Cong, and the Republican Guard is not the Waffen SS. (In the first Gulf War, an Israeli general, asked about the difference between the guard and regular Iraqi units, said: "The uniforms."). The only way America could lose this fight would be to throw it.
A lot of people feel guilty for enjoying the war. After all, some terrible things are happening. But worse things would happen if America failed to rid the world of Saddam. This time, right and might are on the same side. And there is something undeniably enjoyable about being on the sunny side of an uneven struggle between good and evil.
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03/27/03: What's not going on is the key in this war